Uruguay was the first country in the world to completely legalise for-profit cannabis production for industrial, medical, and recreational purposes. Since legalisation was established in 2013, the focus had been on safety and public health rather than on industrial development. However, nowadays Uruguay has a vibrant industry and stands out as a tourist destination centred on the cannabis culture that originated after a green wave of legalisation.
This Latin American country is home to one of the most developed cannabis cultures worldwide. Thanks to legislative advances in all parts of the world and—especially—to the many players in this industry, the cannabis business flourished, and several policies were adopted and framed so as to seize the benefits of the early introduction of rules regulating this sector, which remain in full force. In this context, Uruguay witnessed the birth and growth of cannabis tourism.
Cannabis for Tourists within Uruguayan Jurisdiction
This year, the Uruguayan government presided by Luis Lacalle Pou revealed a plan that introduces a different approach. The idea is not promoting Uruguay as a cannabis destination, but instead keeping tourists away from the black market, offering them legal cannabis, as stated by the Subsecretary for Tourism, Remo Monzegilo. Still, these measures will not be applicable at least until after summer 2021 as discussions must go on.
Under Uruguayan law, adult citizens and residents who are registered with the appropriate government registry are allowed to grow their own weed, join a cannabis club, and buy up to 40 grams a month at any licensed drugstore. But tourists are not included here. The Subsecretary for Tourism proposes charging higher to tourists visiting from abroad and allocate the revenue for funding rehab and addiction treatment programmes.
Punta del Este: A Mecca for Cannabis Tourists
Cannabis tourism is gaining ground on eastern Uruguay. Two of the main global players in the cannabis industry have landed on the Atlantic coast of Uruguay with plans to set up three shops that will constitute the epicentre of cannabis tourism.
Global companies “Higher Standards” and “Oracabessa Ventures Limited” have arrived on the Uruguayan coast to open three luxury stores—in spite of a global pandemic. The first one is a flagship store that has been running at La Barra town centre from December last year.
The second store is located in José Ignacio, at the Casagrande complex, which will also feature a Kaya Café and a Higher Standards pop-up store. Finally, an up-and-coming shop landed at the Medio & Medio complex in Portezuelo.
But the cannabis tourist attraction list does not stop there: visitors will also be able to enjoy the art gallery hosting the “Magia” exhibition by photographer Lelen Ruete, dining with a touch of African, indie and reggae music, and outdoor stage performances. Apart from this, Kaya Herb House offers the same cannabis-related products sold at their main store in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Here we can find the typical bongs or waterpipes, extremely high-end vapes and sophisticated machines for making cannabis infusions in true Jamaican fashion but in South America.
Now we can only hope that the post-pandemic economic rebound allows the cannabis tourism plan to be finally settled so international visitors get to enjoy Uruguayan-style strains as well.